Opinion Review

Ryan Kidwell: Be Your Best

Ryan Kidwell’s debut EP, “Be Your Best”, serves as an introduction to his solo work and may just be one of the best releases of 2016 so far. Simply-orchestrated alternative acoustic-folk, with a zesty touch of country, Kidwell’s sound is polished, well produced and simply begging to be danced to.

Since the end of reggae band The Little Kings’ seven year stint on the scene, which he both fronted and co-founded, Ryan Kidwell has taken to the solo path and, if this EP is anything to judge by, he is well on the way to making a name for himself.

The opening bars of ‘The First’ consist of an acoustic guitar melody which develops swiftly, pauses as though on the very brink of launching into fuller, wilder sound, and then lapses with strange ease back into the original progression. A defined baseline makes its appearance alongside drifting, barely perceptible violin work as the vocals kick in. A deep, resonating timbre fleshes out the track with stark authority. The chorus drops and a decidedly more radio-bred melody takes to the stage. A curious balance is struck between evident originality and radio-worthy charm – an expertly handled undercurrent which bleeds through the entirety of the EP.

Launching straight into an unexpected twanging, clanging country sound, ‘Be Your Best’ explores the self-explanatory title with a bouncing vigour, laced with cowboy-esque harmonica, tambourine and banjo stylings. A curiously detached quality is found in the vocals while, with an unanticipated swerve in the sound, the song closes with a rock-driven electric guitar riff. ‘We Are Worthy’ blends a heady, prominent baseline with his characteristic acoustic plucks to produce a somewhat heavy, yet feel-good piece, backed by a string of encouraging lyrics: “Be grateful you’re awake/ to see the things you do […] and help your mind believe/ that we are all worthy.”

The fleeting musical project ends on an aptly high note, with a collection of prominent baselines, acoustic stylings, high key violin injections and scintillation synths moments in ‘Stepping Out’. Despite the multitude of instrumental constituents, the majority of the vocal sections are stripped down to baseline only. A rap section worms its way into the closing bars of the track, once again demonstrating Kidwell’s ability to weave conflicting elements among one another without once deviating from his chosen style.

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Listen to ‘Be Your Best’ below on Deezer.